MSL Omnimedia Board Regroups as Style Icon Awaits Jail

29 July 2004

While Martha Stewart (62), America's former media queen of stylish good taste, remains in limbo pending appeal against her five-month jail sentence, the board of her commercial exploitation vehicle Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has regrouped in a spree of house-cleaning.

Out goes chairman Jeffrey Ubben, who has overseen a defensive rearguard action during the fourteen months since Stewart's indictment, conviction and sentencing (for lying to federal investigators).

But as ceo of the company's second largest shareholder, ValueAct Capital Partners, he will continue to safeguard his firm's investment from within the MSLO boardroom.

And scarcely had the imprint of Ubben's posterior faded from the chairman's throne, than the derrière of another board member, lawyer Thomas Siekman, was reheating the hide.

A further non-executive, Arthur Martinez (erstwhile chairman of Sears Roebuck) also quit his position as 'lead director'. That position too has vanished, along with its incumbent.

Amid all the comings and goings, Charles A Koppelman, a new director proposed by the media maven herself, was elected to the board. His forte, it seems, is cleaning up the mess trailing in the wake of convicted senior executives -- a task he has already performed for a Long Island City shoe retailer.

The Wall Street Journal interprets the musical chairs as a sign 'that the company is moving from crisis mode to a more assertive position as uncertainty over Ms Stewart's fate has lifted'.

Ubben confirmed this to be the case: "We're transitioning from protect-and-defend to a more offensive position focused on recovery. I want to make sure that the talents of the board are used most effectively," he said.

Meantime, it is rumored that Stewart may opt to drop her sentencing appeal and enter prison early -- thus minimizing her prolonged absence from the MSLO driving seat.

Says her spokesman: "Any thought Martha Stewart might give to voluntarily beginning the service of her sentence is based on her desire to devote her full time to the company as soon as possible. In any case, she plans to vigorously pursue her appeal and seek reversal of her convictions."

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff